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Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

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May 3, 2013
The Roundup: California prison plan; capitols crumble; PA triple-dippers legislation

HA_newspapers3808.JPGBrown says more prison releases require Legislature to act
The Brown administration told a federal court Thursday night that to further reduce inmate prison population the Legislature would have to agree to dramatically restructure the laws governing California's corrections system. - Sacramento Bee

States Rush to Fix Capitol Buildings After Years of Decline
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin literally had a nose for news when she took a group of journalists on a tour of the state Capitol's basement "dungeon" in January. Gas from raw waste fouled the air, the result of collapsing sewer lines underneath the century-old building. But the nasty odor didn't bother a hairy-legged bug crawling out of its moldy, moist habitat to say hello. "Ooh, there's a big cockroach," Fallin said. - Stateline

New effort targets Pa.'s 'triple-dipping' state workers
Progress may have slowed on legislative efforts to put an end to a practice known as "triple dipping" -- although Pennsylvania lawmakers say they're determined to get a measure to the governor's desk soon.
- WHYY

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's new and constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

May 2, 2013
The Roundup: Legislature takes up CalPERS' long-term care; federal hiring slows

HA_newspapers3808.JPG

The State Worker: Committee calls hearing on CalPERS long-term care insurance
Don't be surprised if an Assembly hearing next Tuesday gets a tad heated. - The Sacramento Bee

Budget cuts squelch hiring
Hiring in the federal government has dropped by a third over the past three years as budget cuts have taken their toll.- Federal Times

Senate kills 'right to work' plan for Ohio
Just hours after two House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled a three-part strategy to make Ohio a "right to work" state, GOP leadership in the Senate killed the idea.- Cleveland.com / The Plain Dealer

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's new and constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

May 1, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill to cut California business-filing backlog

111201 Brown Amezcua.JPGIn response to an embarrassing six-week queue of business filings, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure today that immediately sends $1.6 million to the California secretary of state's office to relieve the backlog.

Lawmakers acted after a March 6 report in The Sacramento Bee revealed that more than 120,000 forms, many with filing fees attached, were stacked up in the agency's Sacramento headquarters.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen blamed the delay on the cyclical nature of the filings, budget cuts imposed by the Legislature and a paper-based system in desperate need of automation.

Some form-processing delays hamper business startups. Other states, such as New York, Texas and Nevada, use web-based technology to turn around similar filings in a week or less.

The measure Brown signed, Assembly Bill 113, gives Bowen money from the current budget to pay for overtime and to hire temporary workers between now and June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Legislative leaders have said they intend to appropriate more money over the next few years to get business filing wait times down to 10 days or less and then maintain that benchmark until a new automated system comes online in 2016.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file, 2012

May 1, 2013
Capitol event to recall Caltrans workers killed in line of duty

1104280-caltrans-memorial-ortiz.JPGIn the grim wake of two Caltrans employees' deaths last week, the department is holding its Annual Workers Memorial on Thursday at the California Capitol.

For the last 23 years, the event has honored Caltrans employees killed in the line of duty. Some 180 Caltrans workers have lost their lives on the job.

After nearly two years without an at-work death, two Caltrans workers, Shawn Baker, 50, of Weed, and Joseph Jones, 40, of Montague, died April 24 while stabilizing a hillside on a state route west of Yreka. A third Caltrans employee suffered moderate injuries in the same accident.

The Caltrans memorial starts at 11 a.m. on the west side of the Capitol.

PHOTO: Caltrans vehicles fill 10th Street on the west side of Capitol Park during a 2011 memorial for department employees who died in the line of service. Jon Ortiz / Sacramento Bee

May 1, 2013
Website features leadership tips from California state execs

20111102_ha_JoHN_CHIANG0365-AMEZCUA.JPGThe California Department of Human Resources has launched a new webpage that quizzes high-level state officials about their careers and leadership.

"Executive Perspectives" will offer a new Q&A each week. It went live this morning with comments from California State Controller John Chiang, California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley, Franchise Tax Board Executive Director Selvi Stanislaus and Howard Schwartz, CalHR's chief deputy director.

Human Resources spokeswoman Pat McConahay, who edits the interviews for readability before they're vetted by the various departments and posted online, said the site will add new leaders each week as it aims to "inspire any state workers interested in growing their own careers."

The officials who contributed to the first round of features were picked, McConahay said, because they've shown keen interest in developing leaders in the state workforce.

PHOTO CREDIT: State Controller John Chaing. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee 2011 file

April 30, 2013
The Roundup: NV hospital workers fired; CA to move prisoners

Two hospital workers fired over 'dumping' of Nevada psychiatric patients
Nevada state officials said Monday that two employees at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas have been fired and another three will be disciplined as a result of an internal investigation into the hospital's practice of busing mentally ill patients to other states.- Sacramento Bee

State must remove thousands at risk of valley fever at two prisons
The federal court official in charge of running healthcare for California's troubled prison system on Monday directed the state to immediately remove more than a third of the inmates at two state prisons because of the risk of valley fever.- Los Angeles Times

Lawmakers agree on pay raise for state workers
TALLAHASSEE -- For the first time in seven years, Florida lawmakers have agreed to give state employees automatic salary increases, ending a bleak stretch for a 160,000-member workforce that has weathered cutbacks, pay reductions and slashed benefits.- Miami Herald

Want more? For stories of interest to state employees, check out the State Worker's new and constantly updated News & Views feed by clicking here.

Follow @TheStateWorker on Twitter and check out our community page on Facebook for links, comments and insights into our reports, blog posts and columns.

April 29, 2013
New CalPERS letters detail long-term care rate hikes, options

Thumbnail image for CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGThe California Public Employees' Retirement System today is mailing some 60,000 official notices to long-term care insurance policyholders that a rate hike is coming.

The letter explains that CalPERS is raising premiums 5 percent this year on the plan's costliest policies, which offer lifetime coverage and daily benefit payouts that keep up with inflation.

Policyholders can avoid the premium increases by moving into plans that offer up to 10 years of benefits without automatically inflation-adjusted coverage. The deadline to opt into another plan varies by policyholder.

CalPERS' letter also flags a 5 percent increase planned for 2014 and another 85 percent jump in 2015 spread over two years. All the rate hikes apply to policies offering inflation-protected, lifetime coverage for things like nursing home services and in-home care.

April 29, 2013
California lawmakers OK more cash to process business filings

Thumbnail image for 130312_Bowen_2010_Amezcua.JPG
The state Assembly has sent a bill to Gov. Jerry Brown that would give $1.6 million from the current year's budget to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office.

April 26, 2013
Jerry Brown administration forbids dual jobs for managers

130426-1515-s-street-amezcua-2009.jpgWith an investigation into salaried state workers also earning hourly wages nearing a conclusion, Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has officially banned "additional appointments" for California state managers and supervisors.

"As members of the management team, employees in supervisory and managerial classes can reasonably be expected to perform work as needed to ensure that a department meets its mission," Julie Chapman, director of the California Department of Human Resources, says in the policy memo released late Thursday. "A manager should be expected to fulfill a wide range of duties not normally part of their assignment and classification without additional compensation."

The memo comes amid investigations by the Brown administration and the State Personnel Board into whether departments abused additional appointments. The state started looking into the policy after The Sacramento Bee reported that 571 managers and supervisors in nearly a dozen departments also held other hourly-pay jobs in their same departments.

Brown issued a broad order that halted the practice pending the investigation, which the departments intend to conclude next month. The new memo sets a permanent policy.

Chapman's memo also reminds departments they can pay managers an "arduous pay" differential for working extreme hours. Arduous pay ranges from $300 to $1,200 per month. Departments decide when an employees qualify and how much they receive.

And the memo suggests several other established policy options to additional appointments as a way to meet heavy workloads and crushing deadlines -- using non-managers, including mandatory overtime, shifting employees between similar job classifications and limited-duration job and training assignments.

California Department of Human Resources Additional Appointments Memo

PHOTO CREDIT: The building at 1515 S St. in Sacramento, which houses the California Department of Human Resources. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file, 2009

April 25, 2013
Bill would require civics orientation for California state workers

Quick: What are the three branches of the federal government?

California state workers who don't know would learn the answers to those kinds of questions if Senate Bill 619 becomes law.

The measure by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would require the state Department of Education to develop an online civics curriculum for state employees by Jan. 1, 2015. Agencies would have to certify with the state's human resources department each year that every employee hired, promoted or reclassified after July 1, 2015 has completed the orientation.

Yee spokesman Dan Lieberman said his boss, who's running for secretary of state, authored the measure after seeing statistics that only a third of Americans can name the three branches of U.S. government.

The senator "has run into a lot of people calling in to state agencies with questions and they couldn't get answers," Lieberman said. State workers by virtue of their jobs, he said, are a natural choice for a little civics brush-up.

Yee's bill mandates the curriculum must "facilitate a basic understanding of the responsibilities and operation of the three branches of government and the importance of civic engagement" and "include practical examples" that would be updated as needed.

There's no estimate of the training mandate's cost, but there's an escape hatch: The state won't go forward with the project unless private money pays at least half the cost of the program.

Labor unions and the California Chamber of Commerce support Yee's bill.

Oh, and the answer to that question? The executive, legislative and judicial branches.






About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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